Boutiques charge £50 to try on a wedding dress
Marriage madness has gripped the nation with boutiques beginning to charge brides to try on dresses.
With some shops charging as much as £50 to try on just one dress - in order to weed out time-wasters who are choosing a gown before they have even bagged a groom - the days when a bride would trail from shop to shop, trying on dozens of gowns before finding "the one" could soon be over.
"Quite a few shops have started to charge now, and I can see why retailers are doing it. Charging for an appointment forces a bride to think about whether or not she is serious about buying a dress from that particular designer," said Deborah Joseph, editor of Brides magazine.
"The first fitting can take an hour, and a woman will probably try on six different styles of dress."
Top wedding dress designers such as Phillipa Lepley, Caroline Castiglione and My Lady have all introduced charges, albeit under different guises.
These "appointment fees", "consultation fees" and " deposits" range from £25 to £50, costs that soon add up as a bride shops around in search of the perfect fairytale dress.
As the average UK wedding already comes in at a whopping £20,000 – £1,000 of which is usually spent on the dress – these new charges are adding an extra expense to an increasingly unaffordable day.
"We offer a very specialist service, so we do charge a consultation fee," admits Sally Wright, of bridal couturier Phillipa Lepley.
Women visiting the exclusive Fulham boutique are charged £30 for the privilege of trying on dresses, which start at £2,000.
"All of our assistants are trained professionals with years of experience, so they know how to help brides pick a dress that will hide problem areas and enhance their best features.
“Even people who don't end up buying a dress from us will often recommend the service to their friends," Ms Wright says.
These charges are the latest way in which wedding dress designers have tried to safeguard their exclusivity.
Cameras have been banned from high-end boutiques owing to the huge numbers of women who photograph the dresses and then have them copied at a much lower price.
Some believe that there is a hint of snobbery in the new charges, with some shops hoping to deter women who are browsing outside their budget.
"Our shop attracts nice girls from good backgrounds and businesswomen, so we don't need to charge," said Martin Jenkins, of the exclusive boutique Sassi Holford.
Holford recently designed a wedding gown forAutumn Kelly for her marriage to Peter Phillips.
Savvy women desperate for a designer dress but wary of spiralling costs are heading for designer sample sales — where gowns can be as much as 70% cheaper — or to one of Oxfam's nine bridal boutiques.